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Thursday, September 28, 2017

New PPP Poll: Keller A Slam Dunk For 1st, Lewis, Colón Battle For Second But Johnson Back In The Mix As GOP Rift Widens; Early Vote Still Light, Plus: Shades Of Pizzagate; Susana Does "Dine and Dash" Skips Out On Bison Burger Bill 


The struggles of ABQ mayoral candidate Brian Colón remind one of that old Will Rogers line, "it takes a lot of money just to get beaten." After raising nearly $800,000, the most of any of the eight mayoral contenders, Colón remains locked in a too-close-to-call, all-or-nothing struggle for second place with a resurrected Dan Lewis.

A fresh campaign survey from the Dem leaning Public Policy Polling (PPP) has their dead-heat match continuing with a mere one point separating the two, with Lewis garnering 17% percent to Colón's 16%.

Tim Keller remains far ahead in first place, garnering 33 percent of the vote. He now anxiously awaits to see who he will face in the November run-off following the October 3 election. It's very likely to be Democratic attorney Colón or Republican City Councilor Lewis, with BernCo Commissioner Wayne Johnson having an outside chance as he closes strong.

Here are the complete results of the poll commissioned by the PAC that is supporting Tim Keller and conducted September 24 and 25:

Tim Keller 33%; Dan Lewis 17%; Brian Colon 16%; Wayne Johnson 14%; Michelle Garcia Holmes 4%; Gus Pedrotty 4%; Ricardo Chaves 1%; Susan Wheeler-Deichsel 1%; Not sure 10%

PPP has a long track record in NM and has usually gotten the major trends right. But there will be one more poll before Tuesday. The ABQ Journal poll, which is being conducted several days later than PPP's, reports its final survey this Sunday.

The PPP survey was conducted among 788 likely voters via landlines but was weighted to make up for the lack of cellphones. (MOE about 4%) The poll was made up of 47% Democrats, 38 percent Republicans and 15 percent independents. That is light on Republicans but appears to reflect what will be the final composition of Tuesday's electorate. More on that below when we update you on early voting.

BARNEY FIFE

Johnson
Lewis was walking with a lighter load this week, basking in the afterglow of the ABQ Journal and NRA endorsements. Then he awoke Wednesday morning, turned on the news and there was his nemesis--fellow Republican Wayne Johnson with a new strike that compares Lewis to Barney Fife, slams him for allegedly supporting the ART project (Lewis voted against it) and blames the eight year city councilor for the "revolving door" of criminals wreaking havoc in the city.

And as a final jab, Johnson shamelessly borrows from one of Lewis's closing ads and pledges to "hold judges accountable."

We received the ad Thursday afternoon. It is here.

Johnson patiently laid in wait for weeks then, like a cobra, struck at his prey. Even though he is a former church pastor, you could almost hear the screams from the Lewis west side abode: "Damn you, Wayne Johnson!"

And why wouldn't he? This is the best negative ad--mail or TV--of the campaign. It's hard-hitting and clear-eyed.

Johnson has doubled his support since the Sept. 11-14 Journal poll while Lewis has moved more modestly, from 13% to 17% and Colón has only gained 3 points to 16% in PPP.

Johnson, who is also attacking Lewis on his Facebook page, is now coming in at 14%. That's right in the area that could deprive Lewis of the second slot he so desperately desires.

We would also note that the Journal gave its unusual dual endorsement of Lewis and Colón last Sunday. The PPP poll was taken that Sunday and the following Monday but we're hard-pressed to find much of a Lewis bounce from that backing.

At this point Lewis must maximize his ground game. Johnson doesn't have much of one. Lewis has formed an alliance--holy or unholy depending on your view--with Reverend Smotherman of the 20,000 member conservative Legacy Church, but that vote is not yet showing up in the early voting tallies. Where is it?

The breath of Colón and Johnson is so hot on Lewis's collar that you might see Lewis and Smotherman reading the Ten Commandants out loud at Central and Coors just to get the vote out.

GOP BACK STORY

There was no talking Johnson out of turning into a hit man. The relationship between him and Lewis is icier than the Antarctica, so much so that GOP Gators report the pair has refused to appear in the same room together Election Night.

And don't get started on how Johnson is in the corner of  Governor Susana and Lewis is long estranged from the Governor who loves nothing better than crushing the craniums of her political foes. In other words, this Republican schism is so deep it makes the San Andreas Fault look like a squiggly line in the sand. (Did we just hear Brian Colón yell "Yes!")

SET THE TABLE, JOE

Joe 
So let's set the table for the weekend and before we come back here Monday. . .

Keller wants Lewis in the run-off against him, not Colon. Johnson and Susana want ABD--Anyone But Dan. So Johnson nukes Lewis and the PAC supporting Keller targets Colón in the mail.

Meanwhile, Lewis sends out mailers like the one posted today attacking both Dems Keller and Colón in the hope of showing that he is the true blue Republican conservative--not Commissioner Wayne.

As for Colón, he's the man in the middle, not attacking anyone but praying that Rev. Smotherman's prayers for Lewis go unanswered and that Wayne Johnson's dirty work on Lewis ultimately benefits him by sending Dan into third place.

ANCHOR WEIGHS IN

There's just a few days left and anything that can get attention will be trotted out. Lewis got some when he came with this TV endorsement from former longtime TV news anchorman Dick Knipfing. Knipfing called himself "totally independent" as he worked to boost Lewis with that group. And he added:

The crime crisis convinced me to get involved. . . I believe Dan's experience and plans make him the best choice for mayor. I'm voting for Dan Lewis.

Lewis says it is Knipfing's first endorsement of a political candidate. Of course, the anchorman was prohibited from endorsing anyone when he was on the air. But he did get involved in politics years ago while still broadcasting and that caused controversy. He participated in an anti-abortion march, a view shared by Lewis.

Besides Knipfing, another well-known and retired TV news personality has surfaced in the campaign, but not to praise Lewis but to pan his latest TV ad that claims he will hold "judges accountable" for the city crime wave. This comment from Janet Blair, veteran TV reporter and former spokesperson for the Bernalillo County Metro Court:

Just how is Lewis going to “hold District Court judges accountable”? The Mayor has absolutely no say over their activities or their budget or the rules they follow. He can, as a private citizen, make a complaint to the Judicial Standards Commission, but that is the extent of his so-called control. This claim is political baloney!

Well, we guess that does away with the chance of Dick and Janet co-anchoring any newscasts together.

THE KELLER BEAT

The front-runner in the ABQ mayoral race has been almost an afterthought, having long ago secured enough of his progressive Dem base to nearly guarantee himself a spot in the two person run-off, but Tim Keller is keeping his foot on the accelerator, attending all the mayoral forums and furiously working the phones as he works for a big win Tuesday night. And. . .

He came with a final rebuke of that Santolina financed ad accusing him of coddling child molesters because of a vote he took as a state senator. He wrote in an op-ed that the TV campaign was"retaliation" against him because he was not about to  promise big tax breaks for Santolina. The out of state company is proposing a massive development on the westside, mostly outside the city limits but it needs city water approval to get the go ahead.

Keller, who turns 40 next month and would be the youngest ABQ Mayor since Democrat David Rusk took the office at 37 in 1977, is getting plenty of outside help in his bid. The ABQ firefighters union comes with a TV spot, much of which they used back in 2013 against Mayor Berry. It highlights the crime wave with a new tag line that urges a vote for Keller who they say will add 400 officers to APD. The ad buy is for $10,000 on cable.

And the PAC (or measure finance committee as the city officially calls them) that is supporting Keller recut one of its ads to include what they call "a special update" of Keller's endorsement from APOA--the police officers union.

EARLY VOTE

It's still looking light. Here are your early vote totals for Election '17 through the close of early voting on Friday courtesy of Rick Abraham of Data Flux:

Total vote--42,089
Dems-------22,081
GOP--------14,738
Independent-4,935
Plus 335 new voters whose registration was not available.

That total is expected to trickle upwards with the return of some more absentee ballots by the Tuesday evening deadline.

That works out to 54 percent Dem, 35 percent R and 12 percent independent. GOP voters are less enthusiastic so far than years past. They should come up some and be close to the 38 percent PPP assumed in its poll, but that is still below performance for the party in a city mayoral election. The energy, what there is of it, is with the Dems. That's not surprising after eight years of Republican rule that is now unpopular.

As far as total turnout, we are probably not going to make our projection of 80,000. But the political pros say that 75,000 is still possible. There are over 380,000 registered voters so that would be near 20 percent of the registered, a tad above the 19 percent that turned out four years ago.

SUSANA'S DINE AND DASH

Governor Susana has got to get away from the fast food. First there was that pizza party a couple of years ago that got her in so much trouble that it began a long crash in her approval rating. Now it's her fondness for bison burgers that could further erode her standing and catapult her again into the national headlines. The news:

The general manager of Five Star Burgers near DeVargas mall says Gov. Martinez paid the restaurant a visit Wednesday, then left without paying her bill. Robert Gonzales says  that at first he didn’t recognize Martinez when she arrived in a black SUV, then placed a to-go order of a bison burger and fried green beans.…"I was like, ‘What’s the name on that?’ And she’s like, ‘Susana!’

The governor drank a glass of water while she waited, he says, but when he delivered the bill for her order: “She grabs it off the bar, crumples it up and throws it in the trash. 
Gonzales says he would normally file a police report if he had enough information about someone who skipped a bill, but in this case, he didn’t bother to call about an unpaid tab worth less than $15.“I know us taxpayers are probably going to be paying for it anyway,” he says.

Now from the Governor's side:

The general manager confirms two members of her security detail did pay for their food. It was only after Martinez allegedly crumpled up the receipt and put it in the trash before walking out. The governor's office says it was a simple mistake and the bill was settled later in the evening. The restaurant confirms that "This is a supersized nothing-burger," saida spokesperson for the governor's office. "The governor pays for her meals, including this one, and attempting to exploit an obviously honest misunderstanding just demonstrates how petty our politics have become."

Well, at least there were no beer bottles thrown like happened at the infamous pizza party.

Okay, that's one monster blog, kids. We'll monitor the Mayor's race for you on Facebook and Twitter over the weekend and be back with a full report here Monday. Meanwhile, we're going to do something we've never done before---have a bison burger.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

E-mail your news and comments. (jmonahan@ix.netcom.com)

Interested in reaching New Mexico's most informed audience? Advertise here.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2017

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Battle For Second Gets Political Hearts Racing; Lewis Vs. Colón Goes Down To The Wire; Keller Still Perched In Top Spot, Plus: It Appears Lt. Gov Sanchez Is Out Of Politics For the '18 Cycle  

With Democrat Tim Keller poised to claim first place in the eight way race for Mayor, a dramatic battle for second place, which will determine who will join him in a November run-off election, has taken center stage and is giving plenty of heart palpitations to political junkies of all stripes. (Early voting locations here.)

Grab your defibrillator and head out to the campaign trail with us as we join Democrat Brian Colón and Republican Dan Lewis in their down-to-the-wire, do-or die duel for 2nd place dominance.

After what may have been a bout of indecision that had a TV spot running too long for the liking of campaign critics, Colón has come with his closing spot. He narrates the 30 second ad and also appears on camera to address voters directly, the first time he has done so in any of his ads.

Meantime Lewis is carpeting bombing Republican rival Wayne Johnson in the ABQ NE Heights, the heart of the GOP,  by circulating his endorsement by the ABQ Journal (they also endorsed Colón) and coupling it with an important final days endorsement from the politically powerful National Rifle Association.

Both candidates are desperately trying to catch fire in a race that has been a yawner, with Keller polling in the mid 20's and the only contender who has generated much enthusiasm, even if that is mostly limited to his progressive Dem base.

There are five other candidates in the mayoral contest. All have fallen by the wayside to leave the final "Big Three" of Keller, Lewis and Colón.

Polling is still inconclusive on the Lewis-Colón contest. It could be decided by just a couple of points, as both men wrestle with prickly political problems and as the clock ticks menacingly away.

FINAL AD PUSH

Colón's new spot works to appeal to undecided women voters without risking the considerable Republican support he has generated. For those female voters the ad positions him as a conciliator and someone who can be a bridge to both sides.

To broaden the ad's appeal some language is a bit tougher. He says the city must be saved because "enough is enough." But he steers away from explicitly saying why the city must be saved and who is to be blamed for its condition.

That GOP support, his own conciliatory instincts and the play-it-safe consultant class has boxed him in from directly attacking the unpopular Mayor Berry and being stronger in his condemnation. The danger is that the the spot does not motivate enough voters to push him across the line and leaves him limping behind Lewis. The complete ad transcript:

This is more than a campaign for mayor, it's about saving the city I love. Where my wife has been a teacher for seventeen years and our son went to public schools, where I mentored local students and helped victims of crime. I'm Brian Colón and as Mayor I'll work to find common ground and smarter solutions, put more police on our streets and create more good jobs because enough is enough.

There's a lot going on in that ad and it calls for Alligator analysis:

I don't think it really changes anything. It doesn't cut through the clutter. It's a low turnout year and voters are not inspired by his soft, unifying approach. I'm still left wondering who is this guy and why is he qualified to be mayor? Because his wife's a teacher? His kid goes to college? When he says "enough is enough" it lacks any "oomph" because he hasn't identified why he's exasperated with the current situation. Keller, in his ads, visibly and verbally communicates he wants to change directions; Lewis starkly wants to make Albuquerque the worst place to be a criminal; what is Brian 's message? It's frustrating to watch.

FOR THE KILL 

Lewis is going directly for the kill in the ABQ NE Heights with a spot putting blame for the crime epidemic directly on soft on crime District Court judges and promising to hold them accountable. It is a play for the Alpha male GOP vote that he has been dividing with BernCo Commissioner Wayne Johnson. It is a motivating spot to base voters in a low turnout election.

(We may have a too high total for Lewis' final week TV buy on the Tuesday blog. We have Chris Brown working on the final number. How much matters)

Combined with the male-oriented Journal and NRA endorsements, Lewis has clawed himself back into the second place battle. Only a week ago we and others were saying that the city was teetering on the edge of an all Democratic run-off. Now Lewis has a plausible path to second and an easier one than Colón.

However, late breaking news has Johnson cutting a TV spot attacking Lewis. So that's another threat to Lewis unifying the GOP base.

It's going to be an exciting finish and we want you there with us starting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. Oct 3 on KANW 89.1 FM as we call all the action. And on Monday at 5 p.m. join us for our traditional pre-game show where we will run down the mayor and council races, the sick leave ordinance and the bond issues. Among our guests will be former ABQ GOP City Councilor and State Rep. Janice Arnold Jones, ABQ attorney David Buchholtz and longtime Dem activist Sandy Buffet.

THE KELLER CARAVAN

The mayoral front-runner is pivoting to jobs and the economy in the final days while a PAC supporting Keller is expected to come with a TV spot touting his endorsement from the ABQ police officers union. In addition, we are hearing the PAC will micro target an attack on Colón via the mailboxes in an effort to keep him out of the run-off.

The Alligators pegged a 33 percent finish by Keller as perhaps strong enough to soften opposition to him in the run-off election, but there's been pushback. Keller skeptics are saying since undecided voters were at 32 percent the week of September 11, the bar is higher for Keller if he hopes to scare off big money donors who would finance a campaign against him. They are trying to set expectations higher, saying that only a showing near 40 percent by Keller would slow the drive to thwart him from achieving citywide power.

And Dems supporting Colón are warning that a Keller mayoral victory will mean Republican Governor Martinez would appoint a new state auditor to fill the vacancy Keller would create by becoming mayor. They fear she will unleash a hard-nosed partisan who will have a full year to wreak havoc with Democrats. Give it to Colón, they argue, and keep Keller in the auditor's slot where he could easily win re-election next year.

The Keller campaign appears to be banking early votes in key Democratic progressive areas, notes Rick Abraham of Data Flux. He says there has been a spike in the early vote in the heavy D North Valley, ground zero for the Keller movement.

Importantly, there has not been a second wave of media attacks on Keller following the TV hit he took over a vote he cast while a state senator and that accused him of coddling sex offenders.

SANCHEZ SAYS SAYONARA

We haven't spoken directly with the lieutenant governor, but tapped-in GOP sources are emphatic--John Sanchez is out of the game and after months of speculation about his political future will not seek an elective office in the 2018 cycle.

Sanchez, who leaves office with Martinez at the end of next year, has been mentioned as a possible US senate candidate or US House contender. But neither prospect appears promising with Gov. Martinez's approval rating in the cellar and Sanchez tied to her hip.

Sanchez made a tentative move last year to separate himself from Martinez in the hopes of seeking the governorship on his own, but Operation Separation fizzled when he came under pressure from the Governor's machine.

Sanchez is the owner of a successful roofing business and will have plenty to do if he stays off the playing field. He is also young enough (54) to have another shot at political glory in the future, but it is the recent past that now haunts the state's #2 and has him bowing out of La Politica.

THE BOTTOM LINES

While ABQ prepares to vote for Mayor, Santa Fe's race is at the starting line. The election to succeed Javier Gonzales is next March and a big foot just dropped. Businessman/philosopher Alan Webber announced he will seek the mayor's office in the City Different. It appears the number of candidates is headed to the double-digits but Webber, 69, a liberal with a strong following in Santa Fe and who sought the 2014 Dem Guv nod, will likely be among the handful that will be there at the finish line.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

E-mail your news and comments. (jmonahan@ix.netcom.com)

Interested in reaching New Mexico's most informed audience? Advertise here.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2017

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Juicy News Tidbits From Across La Politica, Plus: One Week To Go In ABQ Mayor Chase; Candidates Load Up On TV; We Break It Down, Also: Borrego Makes Aragon Ache In City Council Clash  

The ABQ mayoral race, which has just one week to go from today, has crowded out the other news of La Politica so let's check out some of that action from the state's top political sources.

United States Senator Susana Martinez? Okay, we just heard your jaw hit the floor so we'll explain. There's been polling conducted apparently to sniff around on that prospect and one of our GOP Alligators says it was done by Public Opinion Strategies, the employer of pollster Nicole McCleskey who is the wife of Jay McCleskey, the Governor's political strategist who probably would like nothing better than to run Susana for the Senate. After all, the commissions on the media buy--win or lose--would be most lucrative.

But Martinez's approval numbers are in the dumpster, probably in the low 30's like Republican ABQ Mayor Berry. And insiders say Susana is not personally shouting out any intention to run for the seat held by Dem Martin Heinrich who is up for re-election next year. But her PACS have plenty of money to spend before she heads for the exits at the end of next year so why not titillate the political community?

Betting line on her running---11 to one against.

Still on the GOP beat, a GOP Alligator with a nose for news writes;

Joe, put Alamogordo State Rep. Yvette Harrell down as a serious contender for the GOP nomination for the southern congressional seat that Steve Pearce is leaving to run for Governor. She is getting some traction.

Okay, she's on the list marked "Serious."

In the embryonic race for the Dem nomination for Governor, former NM first lady Clara Apodaca writes in to let us know of an endorsement for her candidate son Jeff Apodaca. Here it is:

My name is Lilly Ledbetter. You probably know me as a fierce advocate for women’s equality and the inspiration for the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009. I am honored to endorse Jeff Apodaca for Governor of New Mexico because he is the only candidate talking about pay equity for New Mexico women and reinstating the New Mexico Commission on the Status of Women.

That's a decent endorsement for Apodaca who faces a rough campaign against Dem front-runner Michelle Lujan Grisham as well as Las Cruces State Senator Joe Cervantes. (Thanks for the heads-up, Clara.)

Alright, back to the ABQ mayoral chase. . .

Will someone ask Bernalillo County Sheriff Manny Gonzales if he is angling to become the next ABQ chief of police? Inquiring minds want to know.

Will someone ask Jon Zaman, director of services for the ABQ City Council, if he might have his eye on the position of Chief Administrative Officer under a new Democratic mayor? Do tell, Jon.

ARAGON ACHES

Speaking of the council, out on the westside Republican insiders are informing that attorney Robert Aragon will likely not garner 50 percent of the vote on election night and will face a run-off election in November against Dem Cynthia Borrego who has run an aggressive campaign. Political newcomer Catherine Trujillo is also in the contest and splitting up votes and making it difficult for Aragon to get to the 50 mark.

Aragon is a longtime Susana favorite and is getting help from Jay but Borrego, who runs a land development and consulting company and is an elected member of the local flood control board, has spotlighted Aragon's past ethical baggage and is making life rough for him. (See the flyer we posted here.) Still, Borrego has a long way to go. The district, which is being vacated by Councilor Lewis, will still lean Republican in the run-off.

HE MADE IT 

Heard on the street:

Joe, multimillionaire and mayoral candidate Ricardo Chaves has finally made it into the one percent---the Journal poll gives him exactly one percent of the vote.

KELLER WEAPON

Mayoral candidate Tim Keller has a not so secret weapon--his wife Elizabeth Keller. She was on the inside of the 2008 Obama campaign in the state--the one that turned things inside out with new voter modeling and outreach. Elizabeth Keller was on the Obama field staff in Sandoval County. Now she's using that Obama knowledge and helping to head up her husband's ground game which is the most comprehensive of the eight contenders.

Dem Brian Colón is locked in a battle for second place with Dan Lewis and a coveted spot in the November run-off. He may be behind in the ground game but he's trying to make up for lost time by launching phone banks and neighborhood canvassing. We say this is a fight to the political death because both Colón and Lewis are very likely finished if they lose.

One thing Liz Keller may have helping her: Very low turnout. Unless we get a big pop on Election Day the early voting numbers point to just that. The lower the vote goes the more important those get-out-the-vote efforts will be. As our Gators reported here when we first broached the subject, low turnout would seem to favor Keller and Lewis, the Republican who has Legacy Church troops backing him.

TV TALK 


Now exclusive TV analysis and info for you on what the candidates are spending on the tube. We call on veteran New Mexico Dem political consultant and media maven Chris Brown, now semiretired in Santa Fe, to do the spade work. And, boy, does he:

Joe, Republicans Lewis and Johnson are battling for the Fox News vote on Albuquerque cable. Johnson has spent more than $5,000 to place over 200 spots. Lewis is running 300 spots on FNC, plus a few on the sports nets, at a cost of more than $8,500.

The biggest user of cable TV is Brian Colón, and not only on CNN and MSNBC to reach Democrats. He’s also booked eleven entertainment channels that mostly target women viewers. Colón’s total cable buy is over $30,000 for 1,700 thirty second spots airing from late August through the election.

Ricardo Chaves has placed nearly $12,000 in cable buys for the final three weeks: 438 spots over twelve news, sports and entertainment nets.

FOX, KOB, KOAT, KRQE--Those are the four  broadcast TV stations purchased by the candidates. No candidate has bought Univision’s KLUZ-41. This would surely require Spanish spot production.

Here are the total TV buys for the candidates in order of spending. It does not include any buys not yet up on the FCC site:

--$308,000 Colon from 8/28-10/2, 1,323 thirty second spots.

--$153,000 Johnson from 9/13-10/3, 612 spots; 30 sec

--$136,000 Keller, 9/5-10/2, 852 spots; 15 sec

--$65,000 Lewis 9/12-25 (week 9/26-10/3 not up yet on FCC site), 265 spots 30 sec

--$27,000 Chaves 9/15-24, rest not up if bought, 94 spots; 30 sec

--$23,000 Garcia-Holmes, 9/5-10/2, all on KRQE/13, 88 spots;  30 sec

The total for the campaign thus far that has gone to the four TV network affiliates is $688,000 pre-tax and nearly $750,000 when tax is included.


Late info on Lewis' final TV week: He tells us that he will have a "heavy buy" because "I raised more money the last two reporting periods than the other candidates."

We know of one element of that "heavy buy" Lewis talked of. It's for $16,500 on KOAT.
We're posting the entire contract for that buy so you media mavens who want to drill down on what the candidates are paying for the programs they're putting ads on can see for yourself.

One tidbit: Factoring in the lower political rate, some of the morning news on Channel 7 now goes for more than the 10 p.m. news. Times change.

BROWN ANALYSIS.

We asked Chris, who has been in the game for over 45 years, for further analysis:

Counting cable and tax, it appears that Colón decided to spend half of his reported budget of $700,000 on TV. Keller's buy is respectable, given the limits of public financing, and he may be emphasizing the ground game in his budget.

Note that Keller has only 6.5 spots for every 10 of Colón’s, but for half the money. Keller is paying 65% of the :30 rate for his :15 second spots.  In the recent past, scattered :15’s were 75% of the :30 price so that's a price reduction in Keller's favor. 

And there you have the mayoral TV game for Election '17 from deep on the inside--just like you Alligators like.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

E-mail your news and comments. (jmonahan@ix.netcom.com)

Interested in reaching New Mexico's most informed audience? Advertise here.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2017

Monday, September 25, 2017

What's Keller's Magic Number in 1st Round? And What Happens If He Gets It? Plus: Where Race Stands Now, Newspaper Hedges And Endorses Two Candidates And Early Vote Heavy On Senior Set; Our Complete Election Coverage Starts Now 

If 50 percent is the magic number in a two way race, what is it in an eight way face-off like we have for mayor of ABQ? The question started to surface over the weekend as there were still no signs that front-runner and Democrat Tim Keller would fall back.

Analysts, Alligators, wall-leaners and hangers-on seem in agreement that the job now for Keller is to do all he can to break out of his base vote of 25 to 30 percent and look at 33 percent as his magic number. Why? Because that's a psychologically important full third of the vote in a crowded eight person field.

Also, if the second place finisher to Keller is trounced by double digits, it could make the November run-off election that much easier for the state auditor. The reason is that Keller could argue he has somewhat of a mandate with that kind of vote total. Business interests and Republicans that have attacked him in this campaign might be more reluctant to go all-in against him if he entered the run-off perceived as the mainstream choice. Keller could hasten that judgment by quickly moving from the left to the center. After all, he should know how to do that. He was once a Republican and investment banker.

So it's not just making the run-off, it's how much rope the second place finisher gives Keller to run. If they can keep him in sight by finishing behind by at least single digits, they will at least have an argument that the race is not over.

WHERE IT STANDS

Political operatives say the campaign tracking data does not show any severe damage to Keller from that heavy hit piece against him and financed in part by the developers of the west side Santolina project. In fact, they see Keller trending up and into the high 20's. But there's still time for another hit.

Santolina developer Jeff Garrett, who gave $30,000 to the anti-Keller PAC, has had his hands full since his involvement went public. A pro-Keller PAC urged supporters to flood Garrett's business phone with protest calls and they have.

Garrett hasn't been shy, authoring this op-ed on why he backed that high voltage TV charge that accused Keller of coddling child molesters. In return he was scorned by the Keller forces who derided Garrett as an "Arizona developer" who is motivated by greed and has brought city politics to a new low. Garrett comes with this piece on the reaction he's received and doubles down on his charges:

I attended Sandia High School and UNM. After working in Albuquerque’s real estate community, I moved to Los Angeles to further my education at the University of Southern California (USC). Unfortunately after graduating from USC, New Mexico’s economy could not provide the opportunities my young family needed, so we now live in Arizona along-side many others from New Mexico. Since my Op-Ed I have received hateful, threatening emails and phone calls from some of Mr. Keller’s supporters. . .Don’t fall for the distraction strategy of shoot&nbsp the messenger. Tim Keller voted yes to protect sex offenders over the community, not Jeff Garrett. . .

As for the Keller forces they argue that if anyone thought the charges against their candidate had merit, they will think twice now that the police union--the ABQ Police Officers Association--has endorsed Keller's candidacy. "We don't think they endorse people who support sex offenders," said one Keller supporter.

JOURNAL PLAYS

Has the ABQ Journal ever endorsed two candidates in a mayoral race? Not in our memory and we go back to the beginning in 1974. So why the dual endorsement of Republican Dan Lewis and Democrat Brian Colón? They say because its almost certain there will be a two person run-off as no candidate is expected to get 50 percent of the vote. Really? Let's take a closer look. . .

By endorsing Colón they are signaling he is the Democrat they can live with in the mayor's office and it also reveals some desperation that Keller could be headed to that office.

Lewis gets a GOP bounce but not the full one he would have gotten if he alone secured the endorsement. This editorial makes Colón palatable to the GOP NE Heights, further splitting the GOP vote. That's not good for Lewis but it could help Colón get in the run-off by getting more R votes.

The other oddity about the endorsement is that they call Colón a "progressive Democrat" who is friendly toward business. Colon and his BFF Attorney General Balderas have never been known as "progressives" in the Democratic Party. They are middle of the road and sometimes conservative Democrats who have often flirted with the Republicans.

Remember Colón's initial reluctance to say he would fire APD Chief Eden only to reverse himself? And remember when Colón and Balderas wrote that letter to the state Senate Rules Committee supporting Republican Matt Chandler, a member of the Governor's political machine, for appointment to the UNM Regents?

Steve Cabiedes, a Bernie Sanders Democrat, summed it up this way:

Sure, Brian is a progressive--a progressive Republican.

The paper is being too clever by half if it thinks its endorsement--not read generally by anyone left of center--is going to persuade anyone to dump Tim for Brian.

The bottom line is that the business community and the newspaper fear Keller because they have no control over him, but the rest of the city, as witnessed by the failure of the Santolina ads, doesn't seem very concerned, at least not yet.

Does the newspaper, the Economic Forum, the Chamber of Commerce and NAIOP really have the fight (and money) in them to mount an all-out campaign against Keller if he wins by double-digits Election Night? Maybe they unleash Jay McCleskey and try to look the other way, but. . .

The fact that the Lang family (owners of the Journal) were not willing to issue a single endorsement for Colón and fully join the fight against Keller right now tells the tale.

They know Lewis would be the underdog if he claimed second place and that Colón is the real Keller threat. So why hold back? Because they were petrified of offending their GOP readership and advertisers by endorsing only a Dem? Yes, but they still want to take Keller out with Colón if he nabs second.

There's not a lot of money in this town in the post-recession era and what's left is running scared. And that's how you get a confused dual endorsement in a mayoral race.

TV TALK

The critical TV campaign has been in full swing for two weeks now so where's Brian Colón's new ad? He's been running the same spot for two weeks and political pros expected him to come with a new one last Thursday. He didn't.

Colón has flatlined in the polls and his media critics say he needs to shake up his TV theme. He still has not addressed the voters of this city directly, unlike the TV ads for Keller and Republicans Dan Lewis and Wayne Johnson.

Colón is flooding the mailboxes seeking undecided voters, especially women. That should help but the former NM Dem Party chairman got his initial momentum by rolling out an endorsement from Attorney General Balderas. That consolidated a lot of Hispanic support for Colón who is a Hispanic of Puerto Rican descent. He then pivoted to the semi-biographical ad that is now running but it doesn't seem to be doing the trick. We wonder, along with you, what he will do for his final act.

The fight for second is fully joined, with Colón, Lewis and long shot BernCo Commissioner Johnson all in a position to take the prize but Colón still has the best opportunity because Lewis, Johnson and second tier GOP candidate Ricardo Chaves are slicing and dicing the GOP vote like a ripe tomato.

While Colón has the "best opportunity" the momentum for the second place victory may be switching to Lewis in the late going, said a number of Alligators who pointed to his superior air campaign and the Journal endorsement sucking the oxygen out of Wayne Johnson's campaign.

Lewis comes with a new TV spot that sticks to the only issue his TV ads have highlighted--the crime epidemic. In this one, Lewis attacked the city's judges and blames them for the problem. Here's the transcript:

We need to hold accountable district court judges in this city. We have district court judges that are letting career criminals out of jail, if someone can stab someone 27 times on a bus and a district court judge lets that criminal out of jail, as your mayor I won't let criminals define our city. Career criminals in jail, new police leadership. That's not just an empty promise. I'm Dan Lewis. That's what we'll do.

The judges are historically unpopular and a convenient whipping boy for Lewis who needs something to push him up and into a presumed run-off with Keller. The spot is hyperbole but it appeals to the R's Lewis needs to break away from Johnson.

EARLY VOTE 

So what about the early vote?  Don't fret. We're on it like a wet blanket, courtesy of Rick Abraham of Data Flux.

The city clerk did not release over the weekend the totals for the early vote cast on Friday, but as of the end of Thursday Abraham reports a total of 12,677 votes have been cast.

Folks, that is light---very light--and we have some catching up to do if we are going to get anywhere near the 80,000 we initially thought would cast ballots for mayor.

Six early voting days are still to be counted. And if we expect at least 40 percent of the vote to be cast early, we're going to have to get to 32,000 early votes to reach that mark. Early voting ends Friday. Info on where to vote early is here.

There's much to discuss and we'll pick up on it Election Night, Tuesday October 3 on KANW 89.1 FM. Abraham, a former BernCo GOP chairman, will join us as will the voluble duo of former ABQ City Councilors Greg Payne and Pete Dinelli. (How do we referee that one?) Also with us once again will be longtime Dem consultant Sisto Abeyta who will head up our team of analysts.

THE PRUNE JUICE FACTOR

Let's get back to that early voter turnout for some dramatic evidence on how this election is a Senior Citizen affair. Hold on to your Sombrero. These numbers even shocked a couple of our Senator Alligators.

Of the 12,676 votes tallied, only 37 were cast by voters aged 18-20. Just 37! Only 272 votes have been cast by voters aged 21 to 29. And just 597 from voters between at the ages of 30 and 39 and 738 from the 40 to 49 group.

Now get ready for the Prune Juice jolt. Look at this, kids:

1,599 votes come from those aged 50 to 59; In the 60-69 bracket a whopping 4,001 votes came in, the highest of any age group. Not that the 70 to 79 year olds were far behind. They cast 3,814 ballots; in the 80-89 group, 169 had voted early and the Super Golden Oldies--those aged 90 to 99 cast 5 ballots.

And don't forget the Centenarians. Three voters aged 100 or over have voted. Hey, the Centenarians could beat out the 18-20 year olds. Take that, you young whippersnappers.

Abraham adds this note:

60-79 year old early voting female Democrats are the largest demographic group responsible for 18.6% of the absentee and early voters. As for party breakdown, Republicans and Democrats performed nearly equal this week; slightly shifting the total turnout from the Democrats to the Republicans by 2%.

By our count, nearly 74 percent of the vote cast thus far is from voters over the age of 60. Now, that should come down when the Election Day vote is cast with more working class Democrats taking part, but without a doubt electing a mayor continues to be the province of the grey-haired set. With that comes a somewhat more conservative electorate.

BERRY APPROVAL

Mayor Berry leaves office as every other mayor in modern city history--he is deeply unpopular. Only 34 percent of the likely voters in this year's election approve of his job performance and 54 percent disapprove.

The voters polled by the ABQ Journal take part in city elections. That's the best possible electorate for Berry, who will finish his second four year term December 1. If the poll was of only registered voters, or of voters who cast ballots only in general elections, Republican Berry's approval could be below 30 percent.

We'll get around to writing Berry's political obituary, but right now we have too much live action to cover.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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